Aldi accused of being “racist towards the Scottish” but advertising watchdog rules whisky ad is okay

The advertising watchdog has rejected a claim that an a radio advertisement for Aldi whisky is racist, dismissing a listener’s complaint that the commercial unfairly targeted people from Scotland.

The radio advertisement opens with the sound of bagpipes playing before a man with a strong Scottish accent introduces himself as the head distiller of Aldi’s Highland Earl Scotch Whisky.

A woman with an English accent then talks over him and translates his words, despite the Scotsman’s protestations that he is speaking English.

One complainant found the advertisement personally affronting and told the Advertising Standards Board the ad is racist for implying the Scotsman cannot be understood.

“Advertisements like this perpetuate the stereotype that as a nation we cannot be understood,” the complainant said.

“This should be taken in the context of would it be acceptable to put an interpreter on an advert for an aboriginal product? No! There would be uproar. Why is it acceptable to be racist towards the Scottish?”

Aldi responded to the complaint by saying the ad is part of a series of advertisements that are intended to be light-hearted and humorous.

“[The ads] highlight the provenance of ALDI’s liquor range though the highly distinctive accents of the producing region: France for ALDI’s Monsigny Champagne; New Zealand for ALDI’s Fraser Briggs Premium Lager; and in this case, Scotland for ALDI’s Highland Earl Whisky,” Aldi said.

The Ad Standards Board sided with Aldi and dismissed the complaint. The board said while making fun of a person’s accent is not necessarily acceptable, the ad in question does not making fun of a Scottish accent but rather plays on a common scenario whereby a strong accent can be difficult for some people to understand despite the same language being spoken.

The board previously dismissed a similar complaint against Patties Foods in 2011. In that case, the ad featured a voiceover that said: “Scots have never been very welcome on the Australian worksite”.

Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations told SmartCompany this morning the case is an example of political correctness going too far.

“This ad can be seen as playful banter. As there is always an amusing rivalry between the Scots and English,” she says.

“The spirit of the ad is a humorous approach on a relatable situation. There is no history of discrimination in our culture around this topic. Furthermore there is no history of that line of tension in our culture.”

However, Reaney advises SMEs to be conscious of potentially offending customers when considering using humour in advertising.

“When creating advertising campaigns or selecting talent, companies should be mindful of any existing or historical cultural issues that may cause offence to some viewers or listeners,” she says.

“There is always a fine line when it comes to using humour and proper judgement should be used to determine if it could cause offence.”

SmartCompany contacted Aldi but the company declined to provide additional comment.

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Bonnie Lass
Bonnie Lass
4 years ago

I spent a year living in Edinburgh, Scotland; stepping off the plane some 30-something hours after leaving Australia, I asked a Glaswegian fellow for some information. I had absolutely not a clue what on earth he was talking about the whole time he was responding to my question, despite the fact he was speaking English. I had to just thank him and leave as I was too embarrassed to ask him a fourth time what it was he had actually said! I still remember it with fondness though as it was the precursor to a fantastic year abroad in a spectacular country.

It’s not racist to find Scottish accents difficult to understand, I fell in love with the accent but even after 12 months could have difficulty understanding the accent and the speed at which they speak. Some people need to lighten up.

Rohan
Rohan
4 years ago
Reply to  Bonnie Lass

It’s not racist to find any accent difficult to understand. It just is what it is.

Renee
Renee
4 years ago

My Mother-in-law was a Scot. I never understood a word she said. Ever.

Alasdair
Alasdair
4 years ago

I am a Scot, and we do tend to laugh at feeble attempts at our accent. And of course we all have to an interpreter to translate Sean Connery, don’t we. If the world was so stiff, then only mother-in-laws could tell jokes about mother- in- laws. And how about the fat bloke? Mock him and he’ll sue you? Don’t be stupid.
However, what is important her is the degree of stretch. How about mocking an Indian accent in the same way. Give it a go with a Chinese ‘accent’; have a go at a Syrian. Stand back and watch the inequality of action and reaction unfold.

Ross
Ross
4 years ago

One wonders whether your typo of ‘Scotts’ is intentional…

GeoffL
GeoffL
4 years ago

I remember forwarding my wife a URL for a news article a couple of years ago. It reported how many European companies who, despite having english-speaking staff, were having to hire translators when doing business in Scotland. My wife, visiting family in Glasgow, summarised the response as “Aye, tis true …” before they all laughed.